Cubs

Blackhawks back at full strength vs. Predators

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Blackhawks back at full strength vs. Predators

Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011
Posted 1:20 p.m.
By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

NASHVILLE Two more games, and the Chicago Blackhawks will take a much-needed break.

But tonight, its about getting two much-needed points.

The Blackhawks will be at full strength again tonight when they visit the Predators. Niklas Hjalmarsson took the last two days off to heal from some blocked shots, but the defenseman will play tonight.

I had a couple bad ones the last time, so I just took a few days off, he said. Im feeling good today, so thats all that matters.

Meanwhile, the Blackhawks are looking to get as many points as possible in these back-to-back games against the Predators.

A lot of games are big, but these are divisional games, defenseman Brian Campbell said. Were gearing up for tonight and well try to worry about tomorrow when that comes. But we want to have a great weekend.

The Predators will be without defenseman Shane OBrien, who was suspended for two games for a high-sticking incident on the Florida Panthers Stephen Weiss.

Corey Crawford will start tonight for the Blackhawks; coach Joel Quenneville said Marty Turco could possibly start tomorrow nights game back in Chicago.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

CubsTalk Podcast: How new coaching staff will help ensure Maddon's tactics won't get stale

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USA TODAY

CubsTalk Podcast: How new coaching staff will help ensure Maddon's tactics won't get stale

ESPN’s Jesse Rogers stops by the CubsTalk Podcast to chat with Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki about his new book on Joe Maddon. The trio also debate whether Maddon’s tactics get stale and how the new coaching staff will affect the season.

Plus, who should hit leadoff? Fans are all in on Albert Almora Jr., but that might not be the best option. And whose side do you take in the Willson Contreras-Yadier Molina tiff?

Listen to the entire podcast here:

Who should lead off for Cubs in 2018?

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USA TODAY

Who should lead off for Cubs in 2018?

The Cubs' offseason has been hyperfocused on pitching, pitching and more pitching.

But what about the offense? Specifically: Who's going to hit leadoff for the 2018 Cubs?

That question seems to be one of the hot topics surrounding the team as they strive to make Even Year Magic a Chicago thing and win another World Series in 2018.

Before we get into who SHOULD lead off, I'll tell you who shouldn't: Albert Almora Jr., who is a popular choice among fans to fill in for the ghost of Dexter Fowler atop the order.

That's not a knock on the young outfielder, who seems primed for a breakout in 2018 when he should be playing on a regular basis and seeing a lot more time against right-handed pitching. 

This will only be Almora's second full season in the big leagues and given he was in a platoon for most of last year, he still only has 411 career plate appearances in the majors. 

So he's not much more experienced than Kyle Schwarber was when he was penciled into the leadoff spot for the Cubs to kick off 2017 and we all know how that experiment went. Leading off is a tough position to put players in, especially those that are still growing in their big-league skin.

Plus, Almora simply doesn't see enough pitches. He swings at the first pitch often (more than 11 percent of the time) and saw only 3.45 pitches per plate appearance in 2017. That mark was good for 29th on the Cubs behind eight pitchers (Dylan Floro, Kyle Hendricks, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Eddie Butler, Jose Quintana, Jake Arrieta and Hector Rondon), though the pitchers obviously have a small sample size of plate appearances.

Still, that's a shockingly small number for a position player. Almora would've been tied for 143rd out of 145 position players in baseball in pitches per plate appearance if he had enough at-bats to qualify.

But as for who SHOULD lead off, my choice is Ian Happ, though I would like to see Kris Bryant get some run up there and maybe even another Anthony Rizzo stint as "The Greatest Leadoff Hitter of All Time."

Here are my Top 5 suggestions if Joe Maddon were writing out the lineup today:

1. Ian Happ
2. Kris Bryant
3. Ben Zobrist
4. Jason Heyward
5. Anthony Rizzo

Here's more on the reasoning behind that:

Hot Stove - Cubs Leadoff Hitters/2021 White Sox Predictions

Who should be the Opening Day leadoff man for the Cubs? What will the 2021 White Sox lineup and rotation look like? We make our predictions and want to hear yours NOW on Hot Stove Live!

Posted by NBC Sports Chicago on Wednesday, January 17, 2018